100 Greatest Albums of the 90’s: #24

DJ Shadow – Endtroducing

There’s a shop in LA simply called “Records”. Their in-house vinyl junkie is DJ Shadow who owns a key to the basement where you’ll find all sorts of treats (ie. albums and singles which are unsellable, by artists who no longer have a career, along with the occasional mummified bat sandwiched between the LPs). To you or me, that basement is several days cleaning. To Josh Davis (aka DJ Shadow) it’s a gold mine. ‘Endtroducing’ is the first album to be made up entirely out of samples from other records. This is hip-hop’s final frontier: the removal of lyrics. Of course if you remove the lyrics you have to make the music about ten times as interesting, and it is. No genre is safe; it deconstructs jazz, pop, rock, folk, hip-hop, electronica and just about everything else and reorders their structures so it resembles none of them. There’s the smoky saxy warped sleepwalkers, the rattling clattering boom-box staples, the jokey-suspenseful cartoon horror-show epics and the eerie otherworldly soundscapes and pretty much all of them sound totally alien. It takes little snippets from different sources and collages them together with finer details entering from stage left and stage right when it suits them, making it a set of totally enveloping aural movies. I’ve put it on at two parties before: one was full of non-music-devotees, the other was with two of my friends, who are music-devotees. One crowd spat tacks and mentioned phrases like “not music”, “boring” and “what’s that noise”. The other crowd? We knew we were onto something special. Though it constantly sounds slightly familiar, it’s still like a transmission from outer space and ot can turn from menacing to wistful, from dreamy to claustrophobic in the blink of an eye.

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